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Tuesday, July 27, 2021


Gillispie not the way to go

UH Athletics Director Dave Maggard would probably love to have someone as accomplished as Billy Gillispie become the next coach to lead the UH men’s basketball program.

After all, what is not to love about Gillispie? The 49-year-old native of Abilene has a 140-85 record in seven years as a Division I head coach, including stops at Texas-El Paso, Texas A&M and Kentucky. He has four NCAA Tournament appearances on his head coaching r’eacute;sum’eacute;, and was once an assistant coach at Tulsa and Illinois under Bill Self, who led Kansas to the 2008 National Championship. Gillispie is also a highly competent recruiter.

Plus, he is available after receiving the boot from Kentucky on Friday. Apparently, this season’s appearance in the National Invitational Tournament did not sit well with Kentucky faithful and athletic officials.’

Naturally, UH fans and local media immediately began calling for Maggard to send head coach Tom Penders to an early retirement and offer the job to Gillispie, who could easily lead the Cougars to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1992.’

These pleas fell on deaf ears, as Maggard stood by his commitment to bring Penders back for a sixth season.

‘We have a head coach in Tom Penders,’ Maggard said to the Houston Chronicle on Friday, ‘and Tom Penders will be our head coach next year.’

Fans probably think that Maggard is shortsighted not to jump at the opportunity to land Gillispie. Some would argue that Maggard is being cheap for not opening the coffers for Gillispie, who would require a larger salary than what Penders is drawing.’

To be honest, it is not surprising that Maggard would pass on Gillispie, who does not fit the profile this athletic director desires.

Billy Bye-Bye

Maggard has made it clear on several occasions that he prefers to hire coaches who are committed to having a long-term stake in their programs. That is not easy to do these days, with more coaches concerned with using mid-major programs as a stepladder to a bigger, better-paying job with a higher-profile program.

Given Gillispie’s background, there is little doubt that, if hired by the Cougars, he would not be looking to stay in Houston for more than a few years, let alone permanently. An NCAA Tournament appearance or two, and Gillispie would be packing his bags for the next flight out of town, leaving the Cougars searching for another capable head coach.

Besides, Gillispie seems to be a guy who is looking for a real challenge, not something as insignificant as running the Cougars’ program. Been there, done that. Gillispie took a downtrodden UTEP program that won only six games in his first season (2002-03) and turned it into a 24-8 squad that advanced to the NCAA Tournament the next year.

Before you could blink, Gillispie was off to College Station to turn around Texas A&M’s program. Turn it around he did, leading the Aggies to three consecutive seasons of 20-plus wins and three postseason appearances, including back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, before bolting to Lexington, Ky.

Gillispie’s already accomplished the feat that Maggard and fans would ask him to do with the Cougars. So, why should they expect that he would want to start a long-term relationship with their beloved program?

Looking ahead

Seemingly, Maggard will give Penders (102-61 in five years at UH) at least one more shot to get the Cougars to the NCAA Tournament. If this does not come to fruition, Maggard would probably think about making a coaching change.’

Either way, there is a chance that Penders, 63, won’t coach much longer as he moves closer to normal retirement age. Therefore, Maggard, who is getting on in age himself at 69, will have to contemplate Penders’ replacement at some point in the near future.

Expect Maggard to consider a young, up-and-coming coach with ties to the area, is an effective recruiter and desires to have a long-term stake in the program, much like second-year football coach Kevin Sumlin. Someone who demonstrates an interest in sticking around for a lengthy period.

Someone unlike Gillispie.

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